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Genuinely perplexed. More vent than AIBU.

(45 Posts)
HollyBerryBush Mon 27-May-13 08:42:40

Maybe not the best thread title in the world. And yes it's a FB thing! And yes I know I can block/delete/hide feed, but this is just symptomatic of a thousand things that are genuinely irritating quite bizarre in my little world.

Right. I do realise I am not the worlds most empathetic person. I don't invest emotionally in things that do not involve me nor particularly affect me. That doesn't mean I don't understand or acknowledge, I just refuse to go along with mob rule.

I live quite near Woolwich. On Saturday night, I was toying with popping down very early in the morning to pay my respects (by early I do mean at 5am when the area would be desolate) and my friend said "come with me at 10". I knew there was a march planned, so I declined, having absolutely no desire to be caught up with the masses on a rally that may or may not turn nasty. I have strong memories of any rally in the name of Stephen Lawrence being hijacked by the NF and turning into a bloodbath, again all to local for comfort.

So my friend went by herself. And proceeded to plaster pictures of the flowers, teddies, boots, t-shirts, flags and so forth all over face book. A little while later, when she'd had a couple drinks there were posts "raising a glass to Lee Rigby, forever in my heart, I'll never forget you" and the posts were progressively more garbled as the night went on.

Point being, she doesnt know the man, never met the man, doesnt know anyone who ever has, has no interest in politics, the forces. It's like a collective social morbidity. A need to latch onto someone elses grief and make it your own. It's so Diana-esque.

I will visit war graves, but in my little world, it would be thoroughly undignified to take photos like holiday snaps. It's a place for quiet contemplation, giving silent thanks and above all acting in a dignified manner.

I do feel the same about public floral tributes with car crashes. Graveyards are the place for this sort of thing, not heaped on the verge, causing a back log of rubberneckers wondering who was wrapped round that particular lamppost recently.

AIBU to wonder what ever happened to the back bone, stoic outlook and stiff upper lip that Britain was founded on?

It's called "Collective Mourning Sickness" and I think this sums it up: Carol Sarler, writing as a guest columnist for The Times, noted that "this new and peculiar pornography of grief" is sometimes called a 'tribute', "the cruder truth is that ersatz grief is now the new pornography; like the worst of hard-core, it is stimulus by proxy, voyeuristically piggy-backing upon that which might otherwise be deemed personal and private, for no better reason than frisson and the quickening of an otherwise jaded pulse

Tanith Mon 27-May-13 10:32:20

Both Hillsborough and Dunblane preceded Diana's death, too.

Dunblane, in particular, had MIL in near hysterics and I remember being very scared by her reaction - it was so alien to me. I think StepFIL travelled all the way to Dunblane in order to lay flowers.

Mind you, I also remember being very scared by my Aunt and cousins' behaviour at my grandmother's funeral in the 80s. At the time, I put it down to their being Southern European. British Stiff Upper Lip they were not! shock

IneedAsockamnesty Mon 27-May-13 10:24:16

Its very much the same as what I call the teenagers at funerals effect.

( obviously not all teenagers blah blah blah but you know the ones I mean)

DontWannaBeObamasElf Mon 27-May-13 10:20:57

I agree Holly. The whole Facebook side of things seems so fake and forced.

Tanith Mon 27-May-13 10:15:08

I don't agree.

This collective mourning is certainly more in-your-face due to 24 hour reporting and social networking, but it has always been with us. It certainly didn't start with Diana.

My MIL is very like this and I don't understand her very well, but she didn't suddenly start with Diana's funeral.

I remember FIL telling me how distraught she was - and she wasn't the only one - when the Aberfan disaster happened in 1966. She didn't know any of those families, either. The collective grief was felt far beyond Wales, though.

NynaevesSister Mon 27-May-13 10:04:36

We too are from Woolwich and have personal associations with the barracks. This weekend we were in the area for family and went past the Barracks. It seemed wrong to do so and not pause to pay respects for an event that happened recently. We do the same when near war graves in France and Gallipoli. I don't know those men that died but at the same time it feels right to do this. The flowers and tributes are very tastefully and neatly arranged. It feels right somehow. It was a bright sunny day. Lots of people were out. They stood in a queue at the bus stop. White, black, some in hijab. All just normal because this is London, and it just is.

I was glad I went. Reminded me that the majority of people in this country are sane.

Also took a moment to remember those killed and maimed in that same area from IRA bombs. As Irish and catholic I never felt blamed for those by association. I don't blame all Muslims for this either.

TheSherrif Mon 27-May-13 09:44:55

I completely agree OP. I thought I was alone in thinking that people seem to have lost all sense of dignity & proportion these days. It's as if there's a need to be seen to 'really care' (preferably on the telly or Facebook). Sad really.

HollyBerryBush Mon 27-May-13 09:40:31

I didn't go down. I contemplated it and decided against it.

StuntGirl Mon 27-May-13 09:36:24

But you didn't know him either and still went to his murder site. Public or not, you've engaged in the same collective hype about a man you did not know and had no connection to.

maddening Mon 27-May-13 09:35:41

I think with something like this where the event itself has been so graphically presented emotions will run higher.

I am not one to do this kind of thing - I probably wouldn't go and put down flowers unless I knew the person (and I am a very empathetic person) but I can understand how your friend has been swept up in the event - unfortunately social media means this behaviour can go beyond the event and it is not a very dignified way to express grief of the event.

Morgause Mon 27-May-13 09:33:57

You are so NBU.

I find "collective grief" for a person not known to those involved is mawkish and embarrassing to watch.

Never understood the Diana thing.

Far better to donate to a worthy charity and leave the flower laying to those who actually knew the person involved. It's leeching off their grief, somehow.

LRDtheFeministDragon Mon 27-May-13 09:30:25

Mass grief doesn't, IMO, have to take this form, though.

dreamingbohemian Mon 27-May-13 09:29:06

Although there is a sort of silver lining to mass grief sometimes, if it inspires positive change politically. The collective grief about Newtown led to a new push for gun control in the US. In Tunisia, the horror over the street vendor who set himself on fire turned into mass protests that toppled the regime and kicked off the Arab Spring.

MrsMook Mon 27-May-13 09:28:03


The killing was an atrocious act, but surely the way the mainstream and social media is covering it, that's encouraging that act with the by-standers being forced to record it, and giving the murderers the attention that they wanted.

Flowers at the site, fair enough. A reflective post with some personal thought maybe. But sharing trite, gusshy pictures/ posts for someone you have no direct or indirect contact to is over the top and not offering support to the bereaved.

dreamingbohemian Mon 27-May-13 09:25:52

I agree with Imagine -- some things are very upsetting, it would be a cold world if people didn't get upset.

I am normally quite jaded (my research is on war crimes and atrocities) but even I get quite upset sometimes, most recently with the Newtown shooting, all those tiny children gunned down in their classroom. It really rocked me.

But like Imagine says, there's a difference between being privately sad and being all overdramatic about it and pretending to be personally affected by it.

MrsCosmopilite Mon 27-May-13 09:24:38

I'm with you Holly in that I don't get how seemingly a whole nation can be so grief-stricken by the loss of someone they never knew personally.
The atrocity of the deeds in these cases are terrible, I'm not negating that. I'm not negating the genuine grief family and friends of these people feel. But I don't get why a load of people feel obliged to weep and wail publicly.
Sure, pay your respects, but not in a way which has everyone cluttering the place up with flowers and teddies and candles. They would do better to do something useful. Donate to an appropriate charity/victim support organisation, campaign for better security/legislation etc.
<waits to be flamed>

Smartiepants79 Mon 27-May-13 09:23:26

Completely agree. It is definitely much more about making yourself look like a great person rather than genuine empathy.
I can fell deeply sad for the family without becoming hysterical about someone I've never met.
Mob culture is a disturbing thing, even when being used in a seemingly positive way.
It sort of devalues the grief of his family and friends. He becomes public property. Weird.

NomDeClavier Mon 27-May-13 09:22:25

I quite strongly dislike the mass hysteria, outpourings of grief and heaps of tributes. It's invasive and in a way it trivialises what's happened.

A bunch of flowers at the site of a crash put there by family is entirely different - it's like putting flowers on a grave. But cards, teddies and heaven knows what else for someone you didn't know creeps me out. Even worse are the messages on FB.

If it were someone in my family I'd you didn't waste a fiver on that but gave it to an organisation which meant something, or to set up a fund to help the family.

I've spent years thinking I'm an unfeeling, cold-hearted bitch but at least if I am there are others out there.

Mollydoggerson Mon 27-May-13 09:19:31

I thnk it it tribal, aligning yourself with a particular tribe and rowing into that collectivism.

ImagineJL Mon 27-May-13 09:18:59

I can get very upset by tragedies that don't directly affect me - eg Baby P - I avoided the news for weeks because that picture of his innocent face haunted me. And I remember the Lockerbie memorial service, which I didn't watch the whole of, but saw that little boy whose whole family had keen killed while he'd popped to a neighbour to get his bike fixed. I think you'd need a heart of stone not to be moved by such things.

But I loathe the whole public grief thing, and the bandwagon that people feel a need to jump on.

The fact is that tragic stories can be upsetting when you hear them, but it is indulgent and over-dramatic to pretend that it actually affects your every day life unless you knew the people involved.

Personally I think it's all linked with the world of reality TV. People want to be the stars of their own dramas, and when they don't have a drama they steal someone else's!

I think quiet acknowledgment of tragedy, some reflection on the fragility of life, and a moment to appreciate what we all have ourselves, is a sensible reaction. No need for mass mourning.

Bobyan Mon 27-May-13 09:18:33

I think you should call her on it Op, asked how much she is going to donate to Help for Heros. At least the charity might benefit from her...

MeiMeiMeiMei Mon 27-May-13 09:18:05

Holly - how were you planning on "paying your respects" that required a 5am trip?

pictish Mon 27-May-13 09:15:28

Ugh "forever in my heart" ugh ugh ugh. Lies of course. It's just total waffle.

squalorvictoria Mon 27-May-13 09:13:07


I mean, "forever in my heart" FFS? It's so insincere it's actually offensive.

LRDtheFeministDragon Mon 27-May-13 09:12:00

Paying respects is different from acting as if you knew the person who died and are personally bereaved, IMO.

HollyBerryBush Mon 27-May-13 09:10:01

mei - I have military background and an association with the Barracks.

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